Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Imperial Stout

Founders Brewing Co.
Grand Rapids, MI

Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.0%

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

It seems—to me, at least—that your imperial stouts usually fall into two categories. On the one hand you’ve got your silky smooth, easy-sipping—if still massive in body and alcohol—brews that go down almost like a liquid dessert, along the lines of a Lake Louie Mr. Mephisto’s or Two Brothers Northwind. On the other hand you’ve got your garish, gashing, monstrously challenging imperial stouts, brews with huge roasted malt profiles and even some hoppiness tearing at your taste buds, all while flaunting a brain-wrecking ABV. Something like a Bell’s Expedition Stout. Kerflewee, that is heav-ee shit.

And we might as well go ahead and add Founders Imperial Stout to that second category. Imperial Stout slithers and twists into my Schlitz goblet a dark black. Not the event-horizon-black of, say, a Kentucky Breakfast Stout, but pretty damned black nonetheless. The tawny head is sticky, clinging to the sides of the goblet in clumps. I lean in for a sniff: light chocolate, roasty-toasty notes, a little coffee, but nothing huge. So not huge, in fact, that there’s some hops detectable in the nose.

(This shouldn’t be surprising. A lot of imperial stouts have massive amounts of hops—sometimes rivaling double IPAs—as a counterbalance to the gargantuan maltiness. An under-hopped imperial stout would be like drinking malt syrup.)

Needless to say this beer’s got a BIG body along with a medium-to-hard mouthfeel. The initial taste is thick, rich, roasted malt. Tons of it. Dark chocolate undertones segue into dark, bitter cherries. The finish is long, but not as long as you’d expect for such a big beer. Although hop flavor and bitterness isn’t jumping out anywhere, their stamp is everywhere on the sip, keeping the sweetness in check, shortening what may have been an endless finish, even providing a small but distinct hop nip at the end. Understandably, given the brew’s ABV, alcohol notes linger on bigger sips, which become more and more pronounced as the beer warms.

Founders Imperial Stout is a big, warming beer, with some challenging sips—things get downright hot toward the end of the glass. But that’s what a beer like this is supposed to be: a big, boozy digestif or nightcap along the lines of a snifter of expensive brandy or cognac—only better. The great thing about garishly gashing imperial stouts is that if they aren’t up your alley, just throw ‘em in the cellar for a year or two and you’ve got yourself a silky smooth, easy-sipping stout, like magic. But to me, that’s almost like throwing out a good beer. So instead of cellarin’, grab a four pack of Founders Imperial Stout, stoke the fire, and settle into a comfy chair. Sip, wince, and enjoy.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on April 2, 2009.
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